Why using the phone is so scary.
It’s easy for me to say to my clients ”pick up the phone and ring 5 contacts”. I don’t suffer from telephonobia which is actually something that about 2.5 million people in the UK alone suffer from. I had no idea! It is similar to glossophobia which comes from a fear of having to engage an audience, and the associated fear of being criticised, judged or made a fool of. (like public speaking)
But I think that more than that, fear of making phone calls is associated with the fear of being thought a nuisance, interrupting people’s lives. At least when you are giving a presentation the audience have turned up of their own accord.
There is also the lack of body language resulting in people fearing they will lose control of the conversation and misunderstandings will occur. Sufferers typically report fear that they might fail to respond appropriately in the conversation,or find themselves with nothing to say, leading to embarrassing silence, stammering, or stuttering.
So how helpful is it to label this phenomenon? Well, hopefully it helps you realise you are not alone, that this is fairly common and the person on the other end of the phone may be feeling the same!
So how to cope with it?
Build yourself up to it gradually.
Practice will play an important part in overcoming the fear of picking up the phone. Build yourself up gradually, i.e.
- Call a number that you know will only have a recorded message, like a customer service line.
- Call a family member or friend that you know well.
- Call a business and ask a straightforward question, such as when they close.
- Call someone that you don’t know well with a simple question.
- Call someone that you don’t know well about a complicated issue.
- Call someone to make contact, see how they are doing
- Call someone to have a sales conversation with.
I saw a very good trainer in this area, Gary Morgan of Milestone Experts, get all the delegates at the start of his Telephone Training workshop to make a call to a friend just to say “I’m calling because I’m on this really good workshop and I’ll tell you more about it later”. The point was he got them using the phone in a comfortable way so they knew they could do it and all the key skills and technology were in place. It was also great promotion for his workshops!
Consider the benefits of using the phone
Email is fantastic for a lot of things, but conveying warmth is not one of them. And, unfortunately for the email addicted, conveying warmth is essential for building trust. If you want to build relationships, at some point you will have to get on the phone. Emails and texts can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings.
Talking on the phone gives you the chance to actively listen and respond appropriately. You can laugh together, share an experience together and understand each other better.
When following up with prospects, my call once coincided with them getting bad news so I’ve been able to share that experience with them and deepen our connection.
Before getting on the phone
Prepare yourself with the 5 S’s
- Suss them out first – who are they, what do they do, how did you meet, the main reason for your call. If it helps, look at a picture of them on social media so you are focusing on them, not your own issues.
- See the call in your mind’s eye and visualise a successful outcome and how you’ll feel afterwards
- Stand up – it gives you more confidence and allows you to control your voice better
- Smile – This may sound silly, but many say it helps them relax and even contributes to conveying a sense of pleasantness to the person you’re speaking with.
- Scribble – the key advantage of not being seen is that you can take extensive notes. I find that helps me focus on them, allows me to repeat back the key words and phrases they have used and forget about myself when I’m being present for them.
Keep it short
If you are concerned about interrupting someone when you call, ask whether you are catching the person at a bad time. If the person is in the middle of something, this gives you the chance to offer to call them back at a more convenient time.
Your first call to them after an email or letter letting them know to expect your call, need only be a very brief one. “Hi Jane. I won’t keep you but I hope you got my email yesterday? I just wanted to see if you thought it was worth our while scheduling a conversation to discuss it?” If they say yes, you book it into your diaries there and then and get off the phone with something to look forward to. If they say “no thank you”, you thank them for their time and you move on to the next person without wasting a lot of time and energy wondering if they are the right client for you.
It’s best to know one way or another.
Open with a question.
Once you’ve got your scheduled call in the diary that you are both ready for, starting with a question is a great warmth indicator. You are saying that the first thing you are interested in is you. Instead of barging into conversations with your agenda, start by putting the focus on the other person. If you know them, follow up on what they’ve been up to since last time you spoke. “Hi, I remember last time I saw you, you were working on X?”. “Hi, how are you getting on at Y?” If you don’t know the person, kick things off with a question anyway. “Thank you for downloading my free Z, what did you think of it?”
The payoff is two-fold. First, you’ll come off as warmer and more trustworthy.
But there’s an added bonus: asking questions can actually get you out of your own anxious way. By directing your attention toward your conversation partner, you’ll feel more comfortable during the call and they will consider you a better listener.
What to say next?
Yes, make notes, have your list of services ready, but the best conversations happen when you are fully present, which means listening to what the other person is saying, and asking questions. It’s a 2-way process.
What if it goes horribly wrong?
Well the key thing is to look at the bigger picture. You’ve had more practice, you are honing your skills. Take time to learn from the mistakes and consider what you can do better next time. Try and record yourself so you can spot the good things you instinctively say too. Then move on.
The good news is, if you are really dreading those phone calls, they will go better than you think!